Up and Atom

Robot fisticuffs in Real Steel.

Imagine them dancing and playing air guitar to "Walk This Way" and this looks a lot friendlier.

Release Date: 20 February 2012
2011 | 12 | 122 minutes | £15.99 (DVD)/£22.99 (Blu-ray)
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis

Real Steel is constructed from two incompatible movies that should never have co-existed. The first is serious science fiction set in a plausible near-future where big-money robot boxing has left human pugilists unemployed. The other is a gooey, sentimental family drama in which a mature-beyond-his-years kid teaches his absent father a few awkward life lessons via the medium of an underdog automaton called Atom. Needless to say, the movie with the robo-behemoths is rather more enjoyable.

To give him his due, director Shawn Levy (best known for family “comedies” like Night At The Museum) clearly knows that his battlebots are the stars, and they’re a triumph of design and visual effects – you can barely see the join between the CGI and the puppetry.

But you’re left praying for the robots to get back in the ring whenever Hugh Jackman’s washed-up boxer Charlie Kenton hangs out with estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo). Charlie is a bitter cliché it’s impossible to root for, while Max is the sort of supremely confident, technological genius pre-teen that only exists in the movies. The fact that they’ve both been on a “journey” by the time the the end credits roll is probably not what Richard Matheson had in mind when he wrote the short story that “in part” inspired the movie.


The DVD (rated) gets a commentary, featurettes on the robots and one of the stunt sequences, and bloopers. The Blu-ray adds a couple of deleted/extended scenes, a featurette on fight trainer Sugar Ray Leonard’s input and a mock ESPN bio of Charlie.

Richard Edwards

For an alternate perspective on Real Steel, read our review of the theatrical release.

Read more of our DVD reviews.